Don’t we all have tendencies of being selfish? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “selfish” as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others”. I have my tendencies of being selfish as well. Whether in things or in relationships, I usually seek my own advantage. The problem in seeking my own advantage though, is that it is not always necessarily good. I pursue my own interests in things because I fear that I might lack these in the future. I pursue my own advantage in relationships because I am afraid that these people might be disappointed in me, leave me one day and I will be left alone. So, basically, when we say someone is selfish, that means that there is a need within himself that he longs to satisfy or must be filled. And most often than not, seeking one’s advantage may cause frustrations, disappointments, harm or pain to others.
But you see, not so with God. God isn’t like that. The Bible teaches us that God is perfect, complete and lacking in nothing in His person and works. This means he does not need anything from anyone anymore. He is also the God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and this attribute and character of God moves him to freely and selflessly give Himself to others for their benefit and good. In fact, it is the constant testimony in the Bible that God is a loving and benevolent Creator; He seeks the blessing and benefit of all His creatures, not just to the good people, but even to the bad ones as well (Psalm 145:9, 15-16, Matthew 5:44-45). He is the ‘absolute opposite’ of any opinion that would picture him out to be full of whim or a vengeful god who seeks the downfall and misery of His creation – which usually happens when we attribute to God a characteristic or standard that is coming from a finite understanding of humanity. Let us be reminded that God is not human that we should set human standards or tendencies on him. So very unlike men, and far above created things, God is even willing to treat His creatures, not according to their own merit or worth, but according to His own kindness and generosity.
The Bible also tells us that God is the creator of all things, in heaven or on earth (Genesis 1:1, Jeremiah 10:12, Job 12:10) John 1:3 states that “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” God alone is the Creator and we are all created beings. Colossians 1:16 says “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.” It is important to understand that we were not created just for the sake of creating but that we were created for a purpose: for God – for His honor and good pleasure. With that, it must follow that as a created being, my own free-will in its proper context, should conform to the purpose of my Creator.
God is our perfect Heavenly Father
The Bible teaches us that God created everything for His good pleasure and glory (that is to manifest His greatness and receive from us the honor and worship that is due Him). Strange as it may sound in the human perspective, and that may be where most would deem a self-centered and kind of selfish of God, but that is really what He is all about. ‘First, God is worthy to take the highest place above His creation and He is worthy to be the subject of all our thoughts, activities and worship. For Him to deny himself the “first place” above His entire creation would be to deny that He is God. Second, the greatest good that God could ever do for us, and the greatest kindness He could ever show us, would be to direct all things in such a way that His greatness might be fully displayed before us.’ To illustrate, let us think of any good parent who wants nothing but the best for their children. When you know well enough that which is good for your young child, you would insist on doing it for him or her even when the child does not appreciate or like it, and you would most fervently insist on directing your child so he or she would follow the right path, that path which you already know would lead to good things or great success. However, this analogy is still faulty at best because our human parents don’t always know what’s best, don’t even know what’s up ahead in the future time and don’t have all the capabilities to turn bad things into good for the sake of their child. And when human parents insisting on their own ways fail, or any human at that, their failures usually hurt or affect others negatively. That is when a negative connotation to good intentions (which most people would deem being ‘selfish’) usually occurs. But not so with God. Because God knows all things, he sees the beginning to the end of time, and he has the power to turn all things to work for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We can fully trust that, when God calls us to Himself and to His ways, He knows what he is doing and He is fully capable of seeing through that which he wants to be done in our lives. And so we can be confident that He knows what is best for us, and we can trust in His ways and that his ways are the best for us. Knowing what’s best for the person, and helping that person reach that best isn’t entirely selfish at all. That is the most selfless thing one can do.
What about my free-will?
Personally, I didn’t think that way about God and my life before. Back then, I thought that my life was my own. I thought that I could live for myself, pursue my own goals and ambitions and be successful and fulfilled that way. Yes, I chased my dreams and my independence, thinking that that was the best way to live a good life. I assumed to know God and thought knowing about Him was enough. I believed He was someone who would always be there for me to get me what I want. Like when I pray to get that job I needed to start an independent life, I felt that God was real because He answered that prayer, among many others. I thought that because God loves me, He would be happy with what makes me happy. And to require things of me that are hard and troublesome would be selfish of Him. I would often excuse that with “What about my free-will, God?” And because of that thinking, I neglected my personal relationship with Him and my spiritual growth and walk of obedience to His word. I experienced a lot of pain and a heartbreak while pursuing to live my own life without the guidance and direction from God. Only after realizing who God really is did I realize I was the selfish one and I was wrong. Only later did I realize that in order for me to be able to say that I am allowing God to be who He truly is in my life, and that I am truly living the best life, I would have to surrender my own free-will to His plans and purposes for my life.
Because speaking about free-will, ‘Psalm 36:9 says that God is the source of all things and the fountain of life. We owe our very existence to God as our Creator and apart from him there would be nothing. Mankind is not the source of his own existence that he should live for himself, but that He is the work of God that he should live for his glory.’ We are, in our free-will, free to choose the things that would give glory, honor and pleasure to God. In other words, the things for which we are made for, would be the things that would give much and full meaning to our existence. To depart from His purpose, to insist on doing our own ways apart from His will would mean to depart from the only meaning to our existence – and which would ultimately mean chaos and destruction in our lives.
I am selfish, God isn’t.
This is the truth about humanity. Selfishness is a true tendency and nature of the fallen man. Isaiah 53:6 [a] states such truth in this way, “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Such human character is also often talked about and warned against by New Testament writers such as in 2 Timothy 3:2-4, Philippians 2:21 and Romans 2:8. We have this tendency to live for ourselves and seek our own good. We have not lived as we should – created beings for the sole purpose of his Creator. And for that, we deserved to die and live forever separate from God. However, God in His omniscience already knew this would happen, and by His love provided the only way to save His people from their waywardness. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” and Christ died for all so that those who received Him are saved from living in their selfish and wicked ways (2 Corinthians 5:15) and will now be empowered to live for the purpose set by the Creator through the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). We derive our existence and purpose, life and blessedness, from God alone. Therefore, living would only make sense for us when we are living for the purposes of God and living in His direction and guidance. That is the greatest blessing and the most selfless act God need not do for us, but He did anyway. We did not deserve any of it. But God gave anyway. And for those who fully put their trust in the Lord now, we get all the benefits and the blessings, plus eternity with Him. What a wonderful truth!
So, you see, what we might think as being selfish of God is actually Him being His most selfless self, looking out for His glory which is to our best interests.